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Lot 04

b. Penang, 1904-1962


Signed ‘Abdullah Ariff ’ lower right
Watercolour on paper
25cm x 33.5cm

Collection of Raj Kumar RGP, Kuala Lumpur;
acquired from the aritst’s family.

Abdullah Ariff - Father of Modern Art in Malaysia,
Zakaria Ali, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur,
2004, illustrated on page 160.

ESTIMATE  RM 16,000 - 22,000
Suffused with an orange glow, this work uses the wet-on-wet technique, which is denser in the centre as shown by the blotchy tree trunks for a silhouette effect. The contrasting hues of golden yellow and brown of sky and water contrast sharply with the darker curtain of undergrowth on the left. As the title suggests, two figures are perched on the banks of the river waiting for their father to return, as boats criss-cross their view. Menanti (awaiting) is a recurrent theme in communities that are situated on the shore of the sea, because of the precarious living of the fishermen. But while the focus is on the anxious but sanguine wives or parents, like in the works by Mazli Mat Som and Chang Fee Ming, Abdullah Ariff’s goes more for ambient drama.
Abdullah served as art teacher of the Anglo-Chinese School, Penang. He was only one of two local members of the Penang Impressionists of expatriate artists in the 1920s and is acknowledged along with Yong Mun Sen as pioneers of watercolour painting in Malaysia. He worked as a cartoonist for the Straits Echo newspapers in Kuala Lumpur from 1945 to 1947. Elected as Penang City Councilor in 1955, he is the only artist to have a road named after him in Air Itam, Penang. He first made headway with solo exhibitions in the United States - Mint Museum and Ownbey Hall in Charlotte in 1954 and the Malayan Embassy in Washington in 1955. In the same year, he participated in the United Society of Artists group exhibition at the galleries of the Royal Society of British Artists, London. There, he was elected to join the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Art (F.R.S.A.) England.

Abdullah Ariff - Father of Modern Art in Malaysia, Zakaria Ali, National Art
Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 2004.